Particle size affects short-term preference behavior of brown-egg laying hens fed diets based on corn or barley1

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We studied the influence of particle size of the main cereal of the diet on preference behavior by laying hens. Diets formed a 2 × 5 factorial with 2 main cereals (corn vs. barley) and 5 grinding sizes of the cereal (4, 6, 8, 10, and 12 mm screen). Each treatment was replicated 5 times (10 hens each). After a fasting period of 8 h, hens received their respective experimental diets from 06.00 to 14.00 hours. The geometric mean diameter (GMD) and the geometric standard deviation of the residuals in the feeder were determined every 2 hours. In addition, CP, ash, and Ca contents of the feeds were determined at the start and at the end of the experimental period. The experimental design was completely randomized with data analyzed as repeated measures with particle size and cereal as main effects. The GMD of the original feeds increased with increases in screen size and was greater for the barley than for the corn diets. The difference in GMD between the original diets and the residuals measured at 2 h intervals decreased as the experiment progressed (P < 0.001 for the interaction). Crude protein, ash, and Ca concentrated in the coarse fraction of the original diets and of the uneaten feed, an effect more pronounced for the minerals. Independent of the coarseness of the feed sieve, ash and Ca contents were higher in the uneaten feed at 14.00 h than in the original diets. Hens showed a clear preference for coarse particles irrespective of the concentration of CP, ash, or Ca in the different fractions of the diets. Data showed that birds under-consumed Ca during the morning, a period in which the requirements for mineral deposition are low. In summary, hens showed a significant preference for coarser particles, an effect that was more evident when the cereals were ground coarse. Hens, however, did not show any preference for consuming those feed fractions with greater CP, ash, or Ca contents.

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